We know what former Dallas wide receiver Drew Pearson did … and what he said … at the 2017 draft in Philadelphia. What we don’t know is why he said what he did when introducing the Cowboys’ second-round pick, defensive back Chidobe Awuzie.
Well, now we do.
And, essentially, it comes down to this: Blame it on the boisterous crowd, most of which heckled Pearson as he walked to the stage, and blame it on commissioner Roger Goodell, who encouraged Pearson to act on his impulses.
“When those boos started,” Pearson said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, “after the commissioner announced, ‘The next pick up, the 60th pick of the draft in the second round, is to the Dallas Cowboys,’ the boos started right then and there. And, as he walked backstage, I could hear them as I was waiting for my turn to come out.
“And when he got back there, he said, ‘Are you ready for this?’ And I said, ‘Uh, yeah, I am. I played 11 years up here, and I’m used to getting booed by the Eagles’ fans. So this is nothing new. As a matter of fact, maybe I should say … if it wasn’t for the Eagles and the Eagles’ fans, I would not have a career in the National Football League.’ And to my surprise, he said, ‘Hey, that would be good. Say it.’
“He kinda encouraged me to say it. It surprised me, but it didn’t take long to convince me to say it. So, as I walked out there, I was prepared for it, that’s for sure.”
What he wasn’t prepared for was the size of his audience, with estimates that Friday putting it in excess of 100,000 — more than Pearson played before as a wide receiver in Philadelphia. But while the size of the crowd was different, the response was not.
Pearson, a 1970s’ all-decade choice, was engulfed by boos as he walked to the podium.
The fans were in such a frenzy at the time, it got me pumped up. And the more they yelled the more I got fired up — kind of like in the days when we played the Eagles.
“Yeah, I was expecting to see (former Eagles’ defensive back) Herm Edwards out there,” he said. “I was so fired up. With every step I took, I got more and more fired up.
“When I came around that turn and saw that crowd I was like, ‘Wow!’ I mean, you hear about it, you see it but you really don’t understand what it is until you get out there. You can either let it intimidate you, or you can embrace it. And I thought the best way to deal with it was to embrace it.”
That’s an understatement. The louder the audience, the louder Pearson became — barking out, “How ’bout them Cowboys!” before extolling owner Jerry Jones, the team and all the Cowboys past, present and future. It was a moment made for social media, and Pearson became its overnight sensation.
“Trust me,” said Pearson, “when I was in the Green Room (backstage) preparing my presentation there’s no way I planned on announcing it that way – (I was rehearsing it in) kind of in a monotone, just reading the cards or going through my thoughts as to what to say. But not in a way where you trying to provoke the fans or intimidate the fans or rile up the fans in any way.
“But the fans were in such a frenzy at the time, it got me pumped up. And the more they yelled the more I got fired up — kind of like in the days when we played the Eagles. The more they yelled, the more we as a team and players got fired up to try to squelch that crowd noise.
“And when you go over the middle for third-and-12, and you catch one for 13 and a first down, that’s the way to silence it. Unfortunately in that situation, I couldn’t silence it by catching a first down. So I tried to silence it by talking over it and adding more fuel to the fire.”
Mission: Accomplished. Still, he had to announce the Cowboys’ second overall choice, and it wasn’t the announcement that was a challenge as much as it was the pronouncement.
“The big fear for me,” said Pearson, “was not necessarily the Eagles’ crowd, but pronouncing Chidobe Awuzie’s name right. I said, ‘This kid’s waited all his life to have his name called at the draft,’ and I didn’t want to screw it up.”
When Pearson returned backstage, a cadre of former players was waiting to embrace him, congratulating him on what they thought — correctly — was a magnificent performance, one of the most memorable of recent drafts.
“By the time they got through congratulating me,” Pearson said, “that’s when the security people came up, and they said, ‘Your car’s ready. We’re going to escort you to your car.’ And I said, ‘Yes sir, let’s go.’
“It was kind of like when I was walking off the field after catching the Hail Mary (in the 1975 playoff game vs. Minnesota). Rayfield Wright and Jethro Pugh said, ‘You stay between us. We’re going to escort you off the field.’ This was kind of like that.
“So I stayed between the two security guards until I got to the car. When I got to the hotel, there was another team of security guards waiting to greet me and take me to my room. So I was well protected. And I needed that protection because those Eagles’ fans were certainly upset.”